Overseas property sales need regulating
- There has been a surge in complaints to the Consumer Council in relation to property deals outside Hong Kong. People who handle such sales are currently not required to obtain a licence. But given the promotions and transactions are carried out within the city, it makes sense to bring them under the law
The problems are reflected in a surge in complaints to the Consumer Council in relation to property deals outside Hong Kong. They involve properties in Thailand, Britain, mainland China, Australia and other markets. Even though the number may still look small – 261 between 2017 and August 2021 – it underlines the irregularities in the industry.
The watchdog, which also conducted its own undercover inspection this summer, said the marketing information often comprised dubious claims about investment returns and the sales agents often knew very little about the project.
Currently, people who handle properties overseas are not required to obtain a licence from the Estate Agents Authority. But given the promotions and transactions are carried out within the city, it makes sense to bring them under the law.
The council’s proposals, including licensing of overseas properties agents, greater scrutiny of sales information and a cooling-off period are all worthy of studying.
While some property sales companies also believed more comprehensive regulation would enhance sales practices and consumer confidence, the Transport and Housing Bureau said licensing alone would not address the problems with overseas developers and the risks associated with overseas property transactions. Be that as it may, it does not mean officials should sit back and do nothing.
The existing estate agent licensing system and the residential properties (first-hand sales) legislation are a good basis for the authorities to explore the way forward. Other law enforcement agencies may also help, such as examining whether the use of false information in overseas properties transactions would infringe trade description law.